An Experiment In Guestlist Approach To Culturevist Community Meetups

When I created Culturevist, I had a couple of purposes in mind. To:

  • Discover other people near London who are as passionate about organisational culture as I am
  • Create the conditions to have deep conversations with each other, to help each other learn, become inspired and energised

I was completely blown away by who was attracted. People from large orgs, small orgs, ones that have been around years, startups, cross industries, Financial Services, Pharmaceutical, Telecommunications, Central Government, Local Government, Charity, and many more. Culturevist grew into what it is today. It was not planned.

One of the most special things was that people were giving up their precious time. There was so much collective experience and intelligence in the room. I felt humbled and a sense of responsibility. I realised we were helping each other develop amazing cultures, story by story.

Our community meetups were intended to be completely open (anyone could sign up to attend), diverse (we were encouraged to be ourselves and we celebrated each other's uniqueness) and balanced (we felt like we're not on our own - we're a support network that included other people in similar, and different, positions to us). I felt we achieved this.

As we continued to meet up and grow over the months, I started to receive feedback from our community. People felt as though we were starting to lose the balance. People loved hearing examples and perspectives from people in roles and industries different to theirs, and they also wanted to hear from people in similar roles and industries to them. People facing similar issues and similar opportunities. In particular, people commented that they felt they were being 'sold to' by some (as if those people's primary purpose was to sell, rather than to learn about org culture) and the proportion of non-in-house people in the room was increasing, meaning there were relatively fewer stories from people in similar roles. [My definition of 'in-house' is not precise, I think I mean people who are not primarily consulting with, or advising, other organisations. It's hard to explain, and I'm not sure I'm doing a great job here].

So I thought to myself: How do I preserve three of the things that are really important to my vision for these Culturevist community meetups: openness, diversity and balance?

I'm often wrong, so I experiment. I come up ideas, and test them to see if I'm wrong. I fail a lot, and from that I hopefully learn and improve for next time.

My first test was to see if this loss of balance continued, without changing much else. Feedback showed it did.

I then thought of alternative approaches to regaining the balance. One way is to put a cap on the number of tickets available for non-in-house people e.g. there are 20 spaces. I didn't like the idea of putting a finite limit based on a job title. It didn't feel open enough. Particularly if one week your role means you're in one box, and another week another. If someone wanted to attend these community meetups, I didn't want to say there's no way because of your job title. 

So I thought, okay, so rather than regaining a balance by putting a finite limit on non-in-house tickets, I could try and discover and attract more in-house people. So I worked hard to try and serve our community. I put a lot of effort in to try and discover new in-house Culturevists. A challenge I found doing this myself was that it was easy to find people, though it wasn't so easy to find people in the way that still maintained the spirit of Culturevists caring about the culture of our organisations so much that that we're willing to lose our jobs for it.

So at this point in time we're at my third attempt. Rather than put a finite limit, or me try and grow and potentially lose the spirit, my hypothesis is that we'll achieve the vision of our Culturevist community meetups being open, diverse and balanced by welcoming all people, saying that if you do not work in-house, we'd love you to join us if you help us maintain a balance by introducing someone who works in house and shares our passion.

So in my mind, we're still being open. We could be more open, though as we've learnt, that comes with tradeoffs. I still don't feel we're at the optimal approach, and we may never be. In the future there will be additional Culturevist events with their own formats, purposes and approaches. Some will be more open, some less. I'd love to hear ideas or alternative approaches we could test. We'll continue to experiment, celebrating both when we fail and succeed. I'm trying my best to bring my vision to life, and really hope it serves the needs of a community I care so much about.